The debt limit deal has finally made me understand Obama’s motivation. For a while, I thought he was secretly a conservative, and didn’t fight for liberal values because he didn’t want them. But now I’ve realized that his actual motivation is just to get something done, no matter what it may be. He is clearly trying to be the president who solves all the big problems that have been around forever. He wants to have great headlines, and doesn’t care what the story after the headline is.
The first big problem he wanted to solve was health care reform. The whole way through the process, he was pushing to compromise at every step. What he really cared about was “Fixing Health Care”, which meant signing a law that did something about health insurance. What exactly that law did meant almost nothing to him, as long as it did something. He also had a preference for bipartisan support, which is why he agreed to anything the Republicans said would allow at least some of them to support the law. Since he had no principles or goals other than passing a law, no compromise was pushing things too far to be acceptable.
This whole spring and summer, Obama has been pushing for a “Big Deal on the Deficit”. Most liberals wondered why he didn’t push to have the debt limit extended the same way it always has been, as just an increase to the limit with no other policy included. He didn’t even try, which suggests he wasn’t interested. He clearly actually wanted to fix the deficit problem. Since his goal was a big deal on the deficit, he repeatedly gave the House Republicans anything they asked for. The deal didn’t fall apart until it became clear that there was nothing that the House Republicans and Senate Democrats would both support. Obama was clearly then unhappy that he wouldn’t get his big deal accomplished.
This is why Obama talks as though he supports liberal values, but folds every time the conservatives ask him to. His goal isn’t any particular policy, but rather the headline of accomplishing something big. His goal as president is to be the one who finally fixes the problems that everyone has complained about for decades. Getting things done is more important to him than what it is that he has done. He actually believes the liberal positions are better, he just prefers to sign a bad law that does something over fighting for something he actually believes in and not getting anything passed.
Looking over the past few presidential races, the next big problem he is likely to want to try fixing is entitlements, and particularly social security. Which almost certainly means that Obama is going to cut social security and Medicare. There is no other option that can be passed right now, and Obama has already clearly demonstrated that he will give up on any principle as long as it gets a law passed.